Union busting is a practice that is undertaken by an employer or their agents to prevent employees from joining a labor union, or to disempower, subvert, or destroy unions that already exist. During contract negotiations, established unions may declare a strike in order to pressure an employer to agree to a contract. Established unions are most vulnerable to union busting when they undertake job actions such as a strike.
Employers faced with a strike have a number of options. They may try to negotiate a settlement, outwait the strikers, break the strike, or act in some combination of these options.
When corporations seek to turn the workers against the union, they do so by hiring a “new breed” of union busting agency — the labor relations consultant who well knows that the union depends upon the support, confidence, and good will of its members. These qualities are frequently targeted in strike breaking and in union busting campaigns.“ When a chief executive hires a labor relations consultant to battle a union, he gives the consultant run of the company and closes his eyes. The consultant, backed by attorneys, installs himself in the corporate offices and goes to work creating a climate of terror that inevitably is blamed on the union. ”
Martin Jay Levitt, 1993, Confessions of a Union Buster
John Logan, a labor expert at the London School of Economics, observes:
Most union avoidance consultants and law firms pay lip service to “preventive” or “positive” labour relations (i.e. solving workplace problems so that unions are rendered unnecessary). In reality, however, the vast majority of their work consists of running union avoidance campaigns, as employers hire them only when confronted by organizing drives.
The union avoidance industry has profited from promoting adversarial labour–management relations. Labor consultants “actively and aggressively [create] that demand by encouraging management to fear the allegedly catastrophic consequences of unionization — in terms of higher labour costs, reduced profits, and a loss of control of their organization — and to fight it with all the resources at their disposal.”
There are many different forms of union busting. Some consultants and anti-union attorneys take on unions that already represent a work force, squeezing out concessions at the bargaining table, forcing the workers out on strike, and harassing union officers. Other consultants practice concepts known as “preventive labor relations,” or “union avoidance,” attacking unions when they are first organizing, and therefore most vulnerable to anti-union campaigns. The techniques they use have been in development at least since passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.
In breaking a strike, a company or agency targets the action taken by the union. In union busting, the focus is shifted to injuring or destroying the union itself. In some cases, the union may become a casualty of a strike breaking campaign.
John Logan believes that union busting agencies have helped to “transform economic strikes into a virtually suicidal tactic for U.S. unions.” Logan observes, “as strike rates in the United States have plummeted to historic low levels, the demand for strike management firms has also declined.” Union busting agencies have been so successful in suppressing union organizing drives, he has written, that they must now seek markets outside of the United States.
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
Union avoidance consulting firms: